Depression affects millions of lives every year. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder 20 years ago and was actually told by a psychiatrist that due to my brain chemistry I would “probably never be happy.” I’ll never forget that. Today, despite his educated opinion, I live a virtually depression-free life. Not because I magically don’t have it anymore, but because I’ve learned how to successfully manage it. I have compiled the following list for those who are afflicted or love someone who is battling depression. So, let’s get to it!
1) Medical attention. Depression is caused, IN PART, by a chemical imbalance in the brain and the right medicine can balance this out. Though anti-depressants can help depression, they alone can’t cure it.
2) Exercise. It is absolutely imperative that people prone to or suffering from depression exercise. I, for example, take Tae Kwon Do, and although the physical benefits are great, my main reason for doing it is to keep my mental health in check.
3) A healthy diet. Diet is so important. When we trade those fries for a fruit smoothie, our energy increases, no matter how slightly, and so does our mood. Every little bit helps!
4) Talking. This can be counseling, honest conversation with a good friend or a shout out to God. When we hold in our feelings it only magnifies them. There is something very therapeutic about speaking how we feel. Let it out!
5) Humor. “Laughter is the best medicine.” It really is. Force yourself to watch a funny movie or TV show. Your depression will hate it, but that’s the whole point! ☺
6) Company. Depression wants you to be alone, but isolating is the very worst thing you can do when you’re depressed. Surround yourself with people. Going to a park or a mall and watching life going on around you can give you some honest perspective.
7) Service. Do something for somebody else. Bring in your neighbor’s trashcans or bake them cookies. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or a boys or girls club. Kindness goes a long way in helping us feel better when we’re depressed.
8) Anger. Identify it and express it. Are you mad at somebody? Tell them. You don’t need to be obnoxious or loud when venting your anger. Calmly tell them why what they did upset or hurt you, then let it go.
9) Sobriety. People who suffer from depression should not drink or do drugs. Though drinking or using may bring temporary relief, it will eventually make your depression much worse.
10) Upbeat music. What are you listening to? Sad and melancholy music is off limits! Trust me on this one. Listen to something upbeat and positive. My favorite anti-depression music? Earth, Wind and Fire.
11) Lists. When we have everything we need to do floating around in our heads, it gets overwhelming…and depressing. Make a daily list and a monthly list. On your daily list, write down the things you’d like to get done that day. And don’t put too much on your list. It has to be doable. On your monthly list, write down what you’d like to accomplish that month. Again, be realistic. Scratch out items as you complete them. The sense of accomplishment that comes from scratching things out that you’ve completed is really gratifying. I use a big, black Sharpie pen.
12) Sunshine. Get outside! Just 15 minutes outside in the sun everyday warms not just your face, but your insides, too. ☺
13) Color. Black and Grey, no! Try red, green, yellow or purple! Add color to your surroundings and to your wardrobe!
14) Nature. Get out amongst the trees and the grass and the bugs ☺. Go for a walk in the park; along a stream or river; or along the beach or in the mountains. Nature is everywhere… you just have to GO to it.
15) Games. Play cards, Monopoly, Pictionary or Yatzee. There is something about playing games that brings out the playfulness and competitiveness of our youth.
16) Deep breathing. 3 deep breaths, in and out VERY slowly, are very relaxing and help to calm the nerves.
17) Movement. Depression tells us to go to bed and lie there. We can’t listen. We must move. Take the stairs, dance in your room, do some sit-ups, walk to the corner market and get some chocolate (more on chocolate later ☺). It doesn’t matter, just MOVE.
18) Clubs and organizations. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds (depending on where you live) to choose from. Just Google, “clubs and organizations” and then your “area”. Some examples would be a book club, a faith-based organization or a political one.
19) Gratitude. We all have things to be grateful for. Just the fact that you have access to a computer means that you are amongst the less than 15% of the world population that do. Do you know where your next meal is coming from? Do you have a roof over your head? These kinds of things are so easy to take for granted. We need to remind ourselves how good we actually have it compared to many.
20) Pets. I recommend something soft and fluffy, like my puppy, Chloe. My husband would suggest a larger animal, like our Black Lab puppy, Sasha. Cats are good, too, as my sister would attest to. Get an animal to love and who will adore you back. It really does help.
21) The movies. Go to the movies! Check the reviews and go see something great! Buy some $7 popcorn and $5 soft drink! If you can’t afford the movie theater concessions, sneak in some snacks and drinks!
22) Problem solving. Depression will tell you that your problems are insurmountable. Depression lies. Get out your pen and paper (or open Word) and write down your perceived problems and possible solutions. If you find that one of your problems has no solution, there is still a solution: Acceptance. Work on 1 problem at a time. Obviously, the most pressing one. But, don’t put too much on your plate.
23) Sleep. Some people with depression sleep too much, but some suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep can really send depression into a tailspin. If you can’t sleep with over-the-counter aids, see your doctor.
24) Prayer and Meditation. I cannot stress this one enough. I’m going to share with you a prayer that I say whenever I’m feeling a little lost…
”Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take.”
I can already hear some of you saying, “But I’m not religious.” You don’t have to be religious, but you do need to find the spiritual part of yourself that has no doubt been suffering from neglect. We need to take care of our bodies, our minds and our souls.
25) Water. Drink it; play in it, bath in it! There’s something magical about WATER. Stay hydrated, first and foremost, but also enjoy the soothing feeling of being submerged in warm or cool water (whichever you prefer).
26) Gifts. Don’t wait for someone else to spoil you. Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can allow for some small gifts to yourself. Buy yourself some flowers, a cute top, or a Starbuck’s. ☺
27) Forgiveness. It is so important to forgive yourself. Whatever it is that you think you’ve done or haven’t done, forgive yourself. We’re all only human, and that includes others. Forgive them, too. This may not bring you happiness, but it will bring you peace.
28) Aromatherapy. “Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds which are aimed at improving a person’s health or mood. Early clinical trials suggest aromatherapy may have some benefit as a complementary treatment in reducing stress, pain, nausea, and depression.” See links below for further information.
29) Affection. Hugging and touching are so important. We need physical contact. Hug your mom, your sister or your new pet. ☺
30) Dark Chocolate. It’s not just delicious! Dark Chocolate helps to release serotonin in the brain and relaxes the blood vessels of the cardiovascular system. Just keep in mind the calories! A little piece goes a long way anyways!
31) Long drives. I know this one is tough with the price of gasoline, but if you can budget it, plan a long drive on a Sunday afternoon. Roll down the windows and take in the fresh air and scenery. It can be very exhilarating…and calming.
32) Thrills. When was the last time you rode a roller coaster? Have fun!!!
33) Good books. This one has saved me on more than one occasion. Get lost in a good book. Of course, something uplifting or heart-warming. Avoid tragedies and horror. ☺
34) Comedy shows. Whether you rent one at home or actually go to a club, a good comedy show will have you laughing ‘til your belly hurts!
35) Singing, whistling and humming. This one I actually do daily. My kids and husband will attest to it and will also tell you that I’m weird. But, I’ll tell you, singing commands or complaints is far more effective than yelling them. They get to be amused and I get to release stress, so everybody wins!
36) Learning something new. This can be literally anything, from taking a cooking class, to learning a computer program or learning a new language. It keeps life from getting mundane, which in and of itself can be depressing.
37) Museums. Museums are just wonderful for gaining a new perspective. I remember the last time I went to one, I wasn’t in the best of moods, but I left the Museum feeling uplifted and moved. There is just something about history and art that stirs the soul.
38) Decluttering. When stuff and disorganization and papers, etc. surround us it just adds to our level of stress in life. Keep your living environment simple, clean and organized.
39) Caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine can alleviate depressive symptoms. Of course, don’t over do it or you’ll be anxious as well as depressed.
40) Causes. Find something that you can be passionate about! There has to be something that moves you, angers you or saddens you about your community. Underprivileged kids? Mental Health? The Environment? Find your own passion and see how you might contribute to aiding your cause.
41) Sunsets and Sunrises. There is something very spiritual and calming about watching the birth of a new day or the closing of one. Let yourself enjoy a sunset or sunrise once in a while. They can be just breathtaking.
42) Hope. Depression hates hope. It wants you to give up. It wants you to not try. If you take nothing more away from having read this blog, I hope it will be that you must never give up HOPE that you, too, can manage your depression.
I realize this list is going to frustrate some people. “But, I’m DEPRESSED. I don’t feel like doing any of that stuff!” I know. I get it. I’ve been there. But, you can’t rely on how you feel when you’re depressed. You need to make yourself do things that could potentially make you feel better. Start small. Today, make a list. Tomorrow, go for a walk. The next day, buy yourself some colorful things for your apartment or home.
Every little bit that you do is an investment in YOURSELF. I know you can do it! And I’ll be right here rooting you on!
With Love, Karen